Democratic leaders announced late Wednesday that they agreed with President Donald Trump to pursue a legislative deal that would protect hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants from deportation and enact border security measures that don’t include building a physical wall.
The president discussed options during a dinner at the White House with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that also included talks on tax reform, infrastructure and trade. Trump has showed signs of shifting strategy to cross the aisle and work with Democrats in the wake of the high-profile failures by Republicans to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Trump, however, appeared to send shifting signals Thursday on how far he would go with Democrats over signature issues such as the border wall and the fate of so-called undocumented “dreamers.” In a series of tweets, Trump wrote that “no deal” was made on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, an Obama-era program that has allowed 690,000 dreamers to work and go to school without fear of deportation. He further wrote that agreements on “massive border security” would have to accompany any new DACA provisions, and insisted that “the WALL … will continue to be built.”
But he again put lawmakers on notice that he favors some protections for the young dreamers. “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” Trump wrote in back-to-back tweets. Really! … They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own – brought in by parents at young age. Plus BIG border security.”
Trump tweeted, “The WALL, which is already under construction in the form of new renovation of old and existing fences and walls, will continue to be built.” A possible alliance between Trump and the Democrats on immigration would represent a major political gamble for a president who made promises of tougher border control policies the centerpiece of his campaign and pledged to build a “big, beautiful wall” along the U.S.-Mexico border. A majority of Republicans, especially in the House, have long opposed offering legal status, and a path to citizenship, to the nation’s more than 11 million undocumented immigrants.
In a sign of the potential trouble for the president, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, an immigration hard-liner and early Trump supporter, wrote that if reports of a potential immigration deal are accurate, the president’s “base is blown up, destroyed, irreparable, and disillusioned beyond repair. No promise is credible.”
Trump has vacillated over the fate of the dreamers, who have lived in the country illegally since they were children. Under mounting pressure from the right, Trump moved two weeks ago to begin dismantling the program.
In announcing the decision, the president made clear that he expected Congress to pursue a plan to protect the DACA recipients, offering a six-month delay until their two-year work permits begin to expire in March.
In a statement, the White House described the meeting as “constructive” and said the administration “looks forward to continuing these conversations with leadership on both sides of the aisle.”
Congressional aides familiar with the exchange said that Trump and the party leaders agreed to move quickly on legislation to protect dreamers, though aides did not disclose whether they agreed that the goal should be for dreamers to eventually be offered a path to citizenship.
In a statement, Schumer and Pelosi said they had “a very productive meeting at the White House with the President. The discussion focused on DACA. We agreed to enshrine the protections of DACA into law quickly, and to work out a package of border security, excluding the wall, that’s acceptable to both sides.”
And Republican leaders are already wary of the spending agreement Trump brokered with Democrats last week on a three-month spending plan to raise the debt ceiling and keep the government funded. Pelosi and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., met earlier Wednesday to begin discussing the broad parameters of the forthcoming immigration debate. Ryan’s team signaled that despite the administration’s eagerness to quickly seal the deal, it will take awhile.